Another Heart-Breaker as the Dallas Mavericks Lose Again After Having a Shot to Silence the Thunder
What a difference a year and a NBA lockout can make. After the Dallas Mavericks lose again to Oklahoma City Monday night, the defending champions are headed back home in a 0-2 hole. Last year, and until games one and two of this series, it was the Thunder who could not close games. They blew fourth quarter leads in games four and five of the Western Conference Finals last season costing them a chance to knock off the Mavs and make the finals. This year it is the Mavs blowing the late lead and making the mistake to give games away at the end. Saturday night the Mavs had a seven point lead with just over two minutes to play. Monday night the Mavs led by one 97-96 with 50 seconds left, when an unfortunate foul by Jason Terry put Kevin Durant on the line. OKC was money from the foul line all night, and Durant sank his free throws giving the Thunder the lead 98-97. The Thunder made 37 of 39 free throws in game two.
On the next possession for Dallas, Jason Kidd and Dirk Nowitzki were able to work the pick-and-roll on the right side of the court, getting Dirk the ball on the right block and Serge Ibaka checking him man to man. Dirk was able to get the patented “Dirk Swish” one-legged jumper off but unlike Kevin Durant in game one, Dirk’s high bounce off the rim would not be true allowing James Hardin to snag the board and take the foul. Hardin was a perfect 10 of 10 from the line giving the Thunder a 100-97 lead with 25.5 seconds left. OKC received great contributions from Hardin (15pts. 7 rebounds and 5 assists), Durant (26pts. 10 rebounds) and Russell Westbrook (29 pts.) again last night but the Mavs were right there at the end.
Mavs Head Coach Rick Carlisle called time out to set up a play for the ensuing possession that ended up in a quick Jason Terry layup putting the Mavs down 100-99 with 20.8 seconds left. Then, one of the most unfortunate calls of the night against the Mavs took place as Shawn Marion bumped Hardin on his way past mid-court just as Hardin was about to dribble the ball off his own foot out-of-bounds. It was the correct call but just another fourth quarter blunder suffered by the Mavs this season that have plagued the team throughout the year. Hardin sank the foul shots, putting OKC up 102-99 with 15.6 seconds left in regulation.
Unlike in game one, Carlisle had a 20 second time out to spend but chose not to and Jason Kidd quickly took the ball up court, worked around a botched pick attempt, and handed Jett the ball on the right side of the elbow outside the three-point line. Terry launched with six seconds on the clock and his long rebound was grabbed by Vince Carter, giving the Mavs and Jason Terry another shot with 2.2 second left. That long, well contested, three attempt by Jett bounced off the back of the rim as the buzzer sounded on game two and possibly the series for the Mavericks.
This marked the fourth time this season that the Dallas Mavericks have lost the lead in OKC in the last-minute in a game. The game started with OKC opening up a 16 point lead but they put the Mavericks in the bonus with over eight minutes left in the second quarter and that helped the Mavs, who shot 28 of 32 from the line themselves giving them the opportunity to cut the lead to seven at the half.
Dirk Nowitzki was a beast again in game two. It has been said over and over, but Mavs fans must appreciate Dirk’s greatness because we may not see another player like him in Dallas in any sport for a long time. Nowitzki carried the Mavs again last night, scoring 31 points and making all 11 of his free throws. Yes, he had two costly turnovers late in game one but the guy can’t do it alone, and until the Mavericks are able to get another star caliber player in here to help him, the Mavs will struggle to return to the promise land. That window is shrinking, however, so look for Mavericks owner Mark Cuban to shake things up after this playoff run. Deron Williams would be wonderful. That remains to be seen.
For now, expect Dallas to come out fighting at home in game three. This is still the heart of a champion the Oklahoma City Thunder is battling. With the Mavericks now 7-10 in games decided by 3 points or less, however, this champion seems to have lost its ability to close games. That better change Thursday night or the church bells will start ringing at the AAC.